Jenny Copeland, Drive-Thru Success
19th April 2019
“Non-judgement is a huge part of yoga and Buddhist philosophy. It comes hand-in-hand with compassion. It becomes much easier to stop judging yourself and others when you can feel genuine compassion for yourself and others..“
A Buddhist meditation practice that helps you to develop compassion and non-judgement is loving kindness meditation.
You sit down as you would to meditate, with your spine upright (so that you don’t fall asleep and you can breathe fully) and you concentrate on your breath for a while to allow your mind to settle a little. Then you start with yourself and you offer a gesture of loving kindness towards yourself.
Inside, you say: May I be safe, be healthy, be happy, may I live with ease. You repeat this to yourself, as much as possible bringing to life those feelings in yourself. And if you don’t quite feel them now, you wish them for yourself – almost as a blessing.
The first time I did this, I cried and I have met a few other people that did too. If you’ve never spoken to yourself that way before, it’s incredibly emotional to be so kind to yourself. You realise how unkind your inner voice has been.
The next stage is to think of people you know and like, then you think of people you know a little. If you find it impossible to do this for yourself at first, you can start with this stage – it’s easier with someone you know and like. Then you can maybe think of yourself and that person together feeling these things and then progress to yourself.
You can then practice this with people you’ve never met, then people you know are suffering, and if you feel strong enough, people who have hurt you ( a little and a lot), then you think of all the people and all beings in the world who may be suffering and you offer loving kindness to them: May you be safe, may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you live with ease.
This reminds you that everyone in the world just wants to be happy, that everyone you come across has feelings and most of them are suffering. Even the people who are behaving really badly – they may be completely ignorant of the fact that their behaviour is making them unhappy – but all the same, they are chasing their desires because they think it will make them happy.
The Buddha believed that every human being (and in fact every sentient being) suffers. When we talk about suffering in Buddhism or yoga, we mean suffering of all different kinds (including mental suffering such as anxiety, depression, low mood, anger, physical pain and disease, grief and loss).
When you truly feel compassion instead of judgment for yourself, it becomes quite difficult to judge other people, because you really do feel compassion for them instead.
A friend once asked, if you choose to feel compassionate about someone, are you not judging that they need it? Well, I think everyone needs it. I’ve never met anyone who does not sometimes suffer in some way and even if someone is happy, you can still wish them loving kindness.
What I do know is that judgement leads to suffering. Most people who judge others are judging themselves in some aspect of their lives. Judgement of another person is borne from that inner voice that says: “At least I’m not that bad.” That suggests that you do think you are bad – just not that bad, and also that you need someone else to be bad in order to feel good. This does the opposite of making you feel connected to the world. It separates you from other people.
When you stop judging yourself, you accept all of the aspects of your character and stop thinking of yourself as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and instead realise that all people sometimes ‘do good’ and ‘do bad’ and as Brad Warner describes in his book about Zen Buddhism, the message really is, “Don’t be a Jerk”. You accept that you are human and that everyone else is too – and that means we are all in this together.